Launching the Epson Business Council 2011: Inspiring Europe’s Growing Businesses

Setting up and managing a successful company can be challenging, especially in today’s business environment. Our customers frequently tell us that business guidance from people who have ‘been there and done it’ is absolutely invaluable, so it was with this in mind that we set up the Epson Business Council in 2010.

We launched the Epson Business Council in 2010 to gather and share insights from some of Europe’s leading experts within the SME space. It was so successful we wanted to continue it into 2011 and 2012 – but on a much bigger scale.

The SME community is very important to Epson – a large part of our business comes from the SME market – and we realise that as a large corporate business, we’re in a privileged position to support smaller businesses with advice, insight and tips. For us, this goes well beyond how they can get the most out of technology; we want to be able to support, inform and inspire small businesses. The Epson Business Council is a great way for us to be able to do that, by drawing upon the expertise of entrepreneurs across Europe.

Here, Maria Eagling, Epson’s Director of Marketing for Europe, explains a little more

This year’s event

In November this year we invited seven entrepreneurs and academics, each with a long history in developing or advising successful businesses, to debate key topics affecting SMEs across Europe. Here’s a brief introduction to the entrepreneurs and academics that made up this year’s Epson Business Council:

Firstly, we had Jonathan Benhamou, one of France’s leading young entrepreneurs. Jonathan is the founder and CEO of Novapost, which he has built up to become a highly successful company since its inception in 2007. It’s a high-tech multimedia internet publisher and provider of paperless solutions operated under a SaaS (Software as a Service) model, and is already the French market leader in the space. In addition to Novapost, Jonathan is also President of the MIRE association, whose mission it is to promote and identify innovation in France and facilitate the access of public funding to start-ups.

Andrea Granelli joined us from Milan for the event. Andrea is CEO and founder of Kanso, a consultancy focused on innovation and customer experience. He’s had a long and distinguished career in business, starting off as a biomedical researcher before spending several years at McKinsey, the global management consultants. He joined Telecom Italia as Director of Marketing and Sales before becoming CEO, and then spent time as CEO at Tilab, focused on research and development.

Professor Patrick Humphreys brings an academic perspective to the Business Council. As Director of the Institute of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, his expertise is in innovative and creative decision-making, decision support systems and the enhancement of resources for health, culture, development, and networking.

Dr. Harald Von Kortzfleisch is founder and managing partner of VonKor GmbH, a specialist consulting service for the transferring of scientific knowledge to industry practice. He holds the Chair for the Management of Information, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Organization Design at the University of Koblenz-Landau, and is founder and academic Director of the university’s entrepreneurship activities as well as of the School of Entrepreneurial Design Thinking.  Between 2008 and 2011, he supported about 40 young student teams out of academia into their own businesses.

Inma Martinez is a serial entrepreneur, investor and corporate advisor. She has been described by FORTUNE and TIME as one of Europe’s top talents in Human Factors and Social Engagement through technology, and is considered one of the world’s leading digital media strategists. In the 90s, Inma held executive positions in financial institutions (Goldman Sachs) and the telecommunications sector (Cable & Wireless), before leaving to start one of the first UK entrepreneurial ventures of the mobile era, Escape Velocity, before founding two other start-ups.

She is currently president of Stradbroke Advisors, a corporate advisory firm that focuses on European start-ups and independent businesses, and co-founder of Agora9.  She is also a mentor of SeedCamp, TheNextWomen and Astia.

Sara Murray is a UK entrepreneur and founder of the well-known confused.com, which was the first insurance price comparison website to help customers find the right deals on car insurance, home insurance, utilities and much more.  She has been starting her own businesses since 1992, when she created Ninah Consulting – a marketing consultancy advising multi-national corporates on their marketing effectiveness.  More recently, she launched buddi.co.uk, which leads the field in assistive technology, focussing on helping the elderly and those with Alzheimer’s remain independent for longer and to give carers and families peace of mind.

Sara sits on the UK Government’s new Entrepreneurs Forum designed to advise on new business and enterprise policies, and is a founding board member of Seedcamp, an intensive week-long event held in September in London targeted at young entrepreneurs from across EMEA.

Stefan Zickgraf is Managing Director, Confédération Européenne des Associations de Petites et Moyennes Enterprises (CEA-PME). He’s a licensed lawyer, director of Interrecherche S.P.R.L., and has been working with CEA-PME for the past 10 years in different positions. He was active as an advisor to the Technology Transfer and Quality Management Programme and responsible for several Europe-wide projects but also has expertise in public procurement rules and procedures, European and international trade law, as well as in managing EU financed R&D projects and programmes.

So there we have the panellists. Next up, we’ll be outlining the issues that we addressed at the Business Council event. The event was full of incredibly stimulating debate among the panellists, and over the coming weeks we will be sharing information, insights and tips from the discussion.

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